Friday, December 29, 2006

"Half-hearted creatures"

Alex Chediak directs me toward Denny Burk's blog and a post titled "C.S. Lewis and 'The Weight of Glory.'" Burk has discovered that Lewis' sermon is available online here [as a .pdf]. Burk writes:
In “The Weight of Glory” Lewis takes on Immanuel Kant and the Stoics and the idea that self-denial is the ultimate Christian virtue. Lewis argues that “glory” and human desire are not at odds. Here is one of the many quotable quotes:
“The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself. We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire. If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith. Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
The "Weight of Glory" was delivered in Oxford in 1942 during World War II. It is a great sermon which also included (among many others) this famous passage:
"There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously...."
The complete sermon.

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